In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 44-year-old tech consultant learns how to forge the healthy sleep habits she craves.
A little about me:
Occupation: tech consultant
Number of hours sleep you get each night: 5-6 combined, perhaps
Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: 8 hours (in a row)
Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems (insomnia/sleep apnea): no
Do you grind your teeth/have nightmares: no
How much water you drink on average per day: 5 cups
How much caffeine do you drink on average per day: 2 cups of coffee
How much exercise do you do on average per week: not much, unfortunately. I recently purchased an under-desk treadmill because I feel so sedentary due to the work I do.
I work from home, and leave to pick up my son from daycare at about 5pm. On Fridays we normally have pizza to take a break from cooking, but as I went out the night before and my son and the sitter had pizza then, we go and get chicken sandwiches from the drive-through.
I haven’t eaten lunch and my son is screaming for his meal, so we eat in the car on the way home. Once there we play for a bit and then watch a movie before his bedtime at 8.30pm.
Once he’s in bed I set the elf on the shelf, run the dishwasher and try to finish a few things for work before getting into bed myself. When I get into bed, I turn on the TV, scroll on my phone and respond to some text messages before switching off the lights.
The baby monitor is a little finicky so sometimes it makes alerts that will disturb me throughout the night. I wake up at 3am to use the toilet and put on a show. I watch the show and then toss and turn until about 5am.
My son wakes me up at 6.51am. I lie in bed until about 7.30am with my son as he watches a show. I wake up feeling sluggish and ready for a nap. We then go and have breakfast which is chocolate chip pancakes, eggs and bacon.
We have a lazy day because the weather is rainy and cold, before having dinner at around 7pm – leftover pizza.
We eat that in front of the TV and watch a show before I take my son up to bed at around 8.45pm. I read him some stories, tuck him in and then get round to setting up elf on the shelf and finishing designing our holiday cards on my laptop.
I step outside for a few minutes to grab the mail, and then head to my room. At 9.30pm I turn on the TV and watch a documentary while enjoying ice cream in bed.
I nearly fall asleep but am woken by phone alerts and sounds from my son’s room. I end up tossing and turning throughout the night and wake up around 4am, when I turn on a show for some background noise.
I sleep lightly until around 7.30am when my son wakes up. I have an omelette and coffee for breakfast.
My son wakes up wanting to go to the children’s museum, so we head that way after breakfast. We spend around two hours walking around and playing in the museum and by the end he’s pretty worn out. In fact, he ends up taking an hour and a half nap.
I rest on the couch while he sleeps and watch a show. I doze off here and there but don’t get any deep sleep.
Once my son gets up from his nap we watch a show and then play before having chicken for dinner around 6.30pm.
After dinner I give my son a shower before making popcorn and watching a movie with him until his bedtime.
Once he’s in bed I move the elf and get online to work on a couple of items for my job. I end up heading to bed around 9.30pm where I snack on some Hershey’s Kisses, watch a show, respond to a few text messages and eventually doze off.
I have a coughing fit at around 3am that lasts until about 5am, so I put on a show as background noise. I never really fall back to sleep.
My son wakes up at 6.51am and I stay in bed with him until 8.30am. After that we get up to grab breakfast – I have a cup of coffee and a pancake.
I work from home and don’t get away from the computer much, although it was nice to use my new under-desk treadmill for about an hour. However, I don’t really have any breaks from screen time during the day, and don’t have any time for lunch.
When dinner time arrives I make turkey and we eat around 7pm. I put my son to bed at 8.30pm and then move the elf for tomorrow before jumping back on my computer until about 10pm.
I go to bed around 10.15pm with a bowl of ice cream, where I watch a show and scroll on my phone until around 11.30pm.
I wake up again at 12.51am, and end up tossing and turning for most of the night. I turn on a show for background noise in the meantime, and sleep lightly until around 7.30am. I have a coffee and a banana for breakfast.
I’ve been invited to a work party today, so I pick my son up early from school.
I head to the party about 5.30pm and enjoy three glasses of wine with friends. There isn’t much food to eat at the party, but I manage to grab a slice of pizza at the after-party.
I get home around 10.30pm and have another glass of wine prior to bed as well as a slice of leftover pizza.
I head to bed, turn on the TV and fall fast asleep. My son doesn’t wake me until 8.15am and I wake up feeling a smidge hungover but refreshed.
So, what does it all mean? A sleep expert offers her thoughts
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “Your sleep habits aren’t very good and I really want to help you. You know your lifestyle isn’t helping you to sleep which is a positive, but as a single parent with a young child and a busy job, you need to make the necessary changes to feel rested. You’re also at an age where you’ll be heading into perimenopause which can impact your sleep if you don’t have good self-care practices in place.
“Where to start? Your nutrition isn’t great, although I’m glad you eat breakfast, especially when you go for high-protein options. That’s a big tick! However, the sugar loading in bed at night with the TV on PLUS scrolling is the equation that adds up to your disastrous sleep.”
Dr Nerina continues: “This is also compounded by you checking the time and putting TV shows on during the night to distract yourself. Many people do this because it can be uncomfortable just lying there listening to your thoughts and not being able to sleep in the early hours. What would be better is if you work on your bedtime routine – an Epsom salts bath perhaps and a relaxing book or music before you get into bed. Can you find a perfect bedtime story to read or listen to to help you drift off feeling safe and comforted? After all, we sleep when we feel safe.
“Finally, I don’t know how old your child is but do you really need a monitor on still (you may well do)? Or can you at least turn the volume down? I sense this is creating a kind of hypervigilance which is keeping you on the edge of sleep and stopping you getting those deep levels of restorative sleep that you need and deserve.”
If you would like to take part in Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, please email [email protected] with your age, using ‘SLEEP DIARIES’ as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.
Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan
Other images: Getty